Bell tower on the isle of Rhodes in Greece
First of all, allow me to welcome everybody in this hall who has gathered to participate in the Sixth Annual Session of this World Public forum! I think it would not be an overstatement to say that today all of us are witnessing a growing uncertainty in international politics, in the economy, and in ideology. Since the First Session of WPF Dialogue of Civilisations in 2003, we have given special consideration to these processes. But, never before has the subject of the world order been so pressing a question as it is today. At the present moment, unprecedented intellectual efforts need to be made in order to shape practical prospects of the world community development. From the first steps of its activity, the implementation of those tasks defined the role of the Rhodes Forum.
The expectations of the Forum’s current session participants and observers are also great, for the last five years, the Forum has consistently brought to light the contours of change in the present-day world-order. Amongst its significant achievements of public benefit one can list the following. It attempted to introduce into the world community, at all levels, the thesis that it is necessary to replace the idea of a unipolar world with the concept of a community in dialogue and a methodology of accord that would be characteristic of a polycentric world in a state of globalisation. It worked out the subject matter of a new world human intercivilisational order on the basis of a civilisational model aimed at integrating the world community. This model could be an alternative to the so-called “open society”, which attempts to secure for itself the right to dominate the international order by implementing “democratic financial capitalism”, a concept that is exclusively a model of the USA. It formulated ways of developing a new world human order with the aim of creating a society where not only socio-economic rights are taken into consideration, but, also people’s dignity, which is marked by their civilisational allegiance or identity.
For a number of years now, the WPF has been involved in practical activity as a public initiator of a dialogue of civilisations. It allows us to confidently assert that the working out of legitimate grounds for the world order and defining the principles of the co-existence of the world’s cultures are impossible to be made manifest, unless there is a framework for an open and permanently-functioning public dialogue of civilisations. Already, in the first Rhodes resolution in 2003, we said that the time had come to think over and give shape to the principles of the future civilisational development of our world. I regret to say that the current political and economic situation in the world could be characterised as a multifarious complex of multi-headed crises that could lead to the increase of civilisational tension.
Of all such crises, the international law crisis, which is accompanied by the growing mutual alienation and conflicting polarisation of élites, seems to be of particular importance. To confirm this, it would be enough to list just a few well-known flashpoints, such as the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the Caucasus etc., to say nothing of a multitude of other “frozen” and smouldering conflicts that are waiting, in response to a signal or spontaneously, to transit into a “hot” phase with all the ensuing, often dramatic, consequences. Throughout the 20th century, we saw, probably, the most radical attempts to construct a unified world order based on different and differing positions. World War II gave us an example of the fight of the world community against one of the claimants to world supremacy.
NATO forces “exporting democracy”. This is a mockery of what the West stood for in the Cold War. The USA and its allies are now worse than any Soviet commissar. Kaufft nicht bei McCain und Palin!
Following the end of that war, the USA made a hasty move to profit by both the post-war weakness of Europe and the collapse of the colonial system. Their aim was to organise a broad political and economic infrastructure of a new world order. In the main, they created international American dollar-based financial institutions. In the course of time, this doctrinal line was actively implemented against the background of the general shock caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which resulted de facto in a virtual ratification of a “unidirectional world”. The designers of this unified world ideology started their project with military aggression in the Balkans, justifying it by the necessity to urgently and democratically bring “new Europe” into a healthy state. Then, they proceeded to Iraq, where, under the imaginary pretext of eliminating so-called “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, which are still nowhere to be found in Iraq today, the USA and the NATO countries did their best to establish the total and permanent hegemony of the USA in the world. As everybody knows, this process is still in progress.
What would conceptual basis of such politics look like with regard for the position of the dialogue of civilisations? Firstly, the actions in question might be stimulated by knowing that the world order still functioning at present is coming to a close. Its background was rooted in the deep-seated confrontation that arose in 1917 between two ideologies, communist, active at that time, and capitalist, operating in self-defence. A change in the quality and contents of the two opposed socio-political systems was brought about by the results of World War II. They acquired an institutional character since the new economic paradigm was based on the dominance of the American currency, which tied the global interests of the West together in its struggle for the exhaustible energy resources, minerals, and cheap labour force of the developing world. Secondly, the basis of this politics is related to an attempt to morally justify theories of spiritual dominance and economic plunder of Third World countries with a view to guarantee the economic interests of the “golden billion” and those clients who serve it. Thirdly, this kind of targeting required the formation of a consumerist ideology as a surrogate basis of values for the society of today, which goal could be achieved by way of total subordination of individual human interests to the interests of the so-called “democratic society”, always ready to vote in favour of aggressive “consumerism”.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of evidence that the ideas, practises, and results of the initial modernisation processes and, then, globalisation turned out to be not as convincing and long-lived as their creators would have liked them to be. It was not yesterday that a significant part of the world community began to assert most clearly the obvious costs and dangers of forced standardisation implemented in accordance with the recipes of the self-appointed rulers of the world. As a result, today, one can speak about the crash of the myth of a globalised society governed from one centre. The world community does not seem to be willing to accept the present world order as an objective and useful value.
The truth is that the idea of globalism is one of the instruments used to establish a world order that primarily answers the utilitarian purposes of a closed group of organisers. The cornerstone of the conception is uniformity in its worst form, standardisation as the basis of progress and prosperity paralleled, at the same time, by a total negation of vitally-important things such as local particularities, and the right to dissent from strictly-imposed clichés and mindlessly marching with the mainstream. The absence of any serious and sensible opposing responses to this doctrine stimulated the process of replacing the globalism in question with a quasi-reality. Unfortunately, economic, political, military, and socio-psychological factors are used to embody this quasi-reality; it personifies the coercive American style in international politics. The realisation of the American policy-line generated a chain of interconnected crises in civilisational interaction.
What the USA has done to the world economy. May God have mercy on us for our greed and childish tantrums.
At the present moment, this sort of civilisational egoism acts as the most dangerous source of crises, taking shape as aggressively competitive behaviour, where a civilisation claiming to be totally-correct forcibly imposes its values on others as a unified model for everybody. Another source of the current crisis consists in weakening, often deliberately, basic principles and norms of the existing world order. Here, frequently, to battle for one’s own interests, one uses a masterly-elaborated practise of double standards. What is a double standard? What do double standards mean? It means that one is trying to conceal one’s burning self-seeking interest by using a cold and elastic conscience. Consequently, freedom from principles allows so-called politicians to act according to the rule brilliantly described by a well-known Russian satirist of the 19th century, “(Act) …at first with reference to the circumstances, and, then, in conformity with meanness”.
We have pointed out here just a few causes of the present crises. A detailed situation analysis would give us a huge amount of specific material to help understand the reason why the world today is so vulnerable and fragile in its confrontation with the historically-meaningless, but, hydra-like doctrines and prejudices of the so-called “democratic financial capitalism” practised in the USA. Now, it seems obvious that the world found itself amidst the process of the violently-growing financial crisis as if it were in a phase of gigantic shocks. Everybody is aware of the fact that the crisis is already at its peak, but, we need to say it is still far from completion yet, and, I would say, from its culmination, as well. Besides, no complex internationally-approved measures aimed at softening its consequences have been found yet. As a matter of fact, the entire world turned out to be held hostage by the artificial “virtual economy” designed by neo-liberal theorists and practical traders. Today, everyone accuses the USA of irresponsible financial strategy. However, in justice, one should note that the participants and beneficiaries of such fictitious economics are found in the élite groups of many countries, as many eagerly sought to make easy money and enjoy the fruit of swiftly-growing financial “balloons”. Now, they wish to lay all the blame for such reckless economic schemes on the USA.
At the present moment, the entire world seems to be involved in the world-wide financial crisis, and this is exactly the reason why the way out can only be found by taking joint action. At the beginning of July, in Modena (Italy), with the support of WPF Dialogue of Civilizations, we held an “International Economic Forum Dialogue West-East: Integration and Development”, which gathered experts from Russia and Italy. The Forum resulted in the launching of the “Modena initiative”, which states in particular that the roots of the crisis are systemic in character. Violently-growing fictitious capital together with floating currency rates led to the separation of the financial system, especially speculation, from real economy. The “Modena initiative” offered specific recommendations for urgent measures that need to be taken in order to soften the consequences of the collapse. The text is available in the materials of the “Modena initiative” workshop of the present Forum, so one is welcome to discuss the materials and, if there is a wish to, join the initiative.
It seems that the deeply-rooted grounds of today’s almost chaotic state of the world order lie in the sphere of paradoxical, at first sight, interconnection of the two outwardly-opposite ideological matrices that used to keep the world in a strained bipolar balance throughout the 20th century. It was a balance on the verge of conflict, thanks to which, though, both competing systems managed to avoid fatal clashes. Both sides elaborately regulated this balance-competition-confrontation process, which, nevertheless, account for the positive effects of the situation. To mention just a few, there were decades of world peace and great strides in scientific, technological, and socio-political progress (space exploration, disarmament schemes, non-proliferation treaties, etc.) At the time, the so-called Third World was an integral part of the events, finding practical opportunities to modernise its economies and articulate their interests after centuries of colonial subordination.
Still, as it turned out, the interests of the majority of such countries and nations cannot be adequately protected in the environment of unipolar globalisation. Moreover, the world cannot be endlessly kept in the state of a strained balance fraught with aggravation and conflicts. It needs more certainty and predictability in the future and a more fundamental basis for long-term relations that could be built up not only on pragmatic interests, but, also on deep spiritual aspirations. The decline of the bipolar system, caused by the collapse of one of the two political systems duly led to the unstable position of the opposite ideological matrix, which lost the deterrence offered by a significant opponent. The destruction of the world order created by the two contending political systems factually transferred all the problems of the world community into the transit space of inter-civilisational relationships. Within this space, civilisational identity acquired over-intricate and regressive evaluative features, which was manifested in the appearance of archaic slogans and appeals urging us to “fight the axis of evil”, oppose so-called Islamic “fundamentalism”, pumping up the Iranian nuclear “threat”, the “suppression” of democracy in Russia, etc. Under pressure from the biased and politically-motivated mass media, attempts were made to provoke nationalistic confrontations in Russia, India, China, in Europe, and Latin America. That is how the doctrine of “controlled chaos” is being built up and how it is given form and substance by those who proclaimed themselves the “winners” in the Cold War.
We believe that to come out of the deadlocks caused by the degrading ideology of globalism, alongside with strengthening the meaning of the integrative processes of world-wide developments, mainly resides in the recognition of the primacy of international law in the polycentric (multipolar) world. In which form precisely it is going to happen is a problematic question. It might find a solution in a course based on the recognition of the originality of the historical and cultural peculiarities of one or another civilisational vision of the world. Allow me to conclude by saying that the recognition of the necessity to create a paradigm of a dialogue of civilisations in response to the nationalistic and cultural egoism of the Anglo-Saxon states called into being a powerful growth of civilisational self-identification in the world.
Unfortunately, mechanisms of intergovernmental interaction, embodied in first-rate international organisations, fall behind the reality of growing inter-civilisational contradictions. Here, there the principles of the previous era continue to function, the period of “a balance on the verge of a conflict”. Obviously, this kind of balance, no matter how well it might be constructed, cannot be long-lived. It has never guaranteed anybody a reliable and predictable future, so, therefore, it should be replaced by a balance based on a peaceful and universally-open inter-civilisational dialogue, one that is able to take proper and full account of the full variety of the polycentric world.
Today, we are witnessing how the illusions of the unipolar world are breaking down in front of our eyes. In this situation, is important to understand that the transit to the reality of the multipolar world cannot occur by itself, because even when the illusions are lost, there are sill many who wish to keep their exclusive influence in the world. For instance, there has already appeared an idea of creating a so-called “League of Democratic States”, launched quite recently as a trial balloon. It is also important to realise that a transition to a multipolar world could be made impossible against a background of unstable economic, political, and ideological bases, which is going to drag the world community from crisis to crisis in all spheres of international activity.
Overcoming existing and potential conflicts on an intercivilisational basis requires consideration and solution of rather complicated, multi-level, and complex tasks. But, one can say with certainty that the problems presented and a high intellectual level of our Forum participants will provide for the unbiased and substantial discussion of the crucial issues of the world’s current agenda. The Sixth Session includes a wide range of questions, including theoretical aspects of the dialogue of cultures and civilizations, problems of creating a new world system up, different features of the present crisis of the world financial system, and also problems relating to monitoring migration processes that might threaten to overturn existing national border lines in the near future.
Finishing my speech I would like to draw your attention to one indicative analogy. Greek mythology tells us of a well-known character, a proud and self-loving Narcissus. As the myth related, Narcissus, being enchanted with his own reflection in the waters of the river, fell in love with the reflection. Unable to part with the image of himself, he had to eventually say goodbye to his own wife. The current political situation looks very much like the scene in this Greek myth. We see how leading political actors (and those copying them) show their assertiveness and pride on every occasion, never taking notice of anyone else save for a blind and aggressive imposition of their way of life and their outlook on the world community without a moment’s thought that narcissism might lead dangerously to self-destruction.
11 October 2008
President of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilisations”